Image Credit: The Office of the Prime Minister of Ethiopia
The other day I randomly picked up one of those “stocking-stuffer” type of books that was on my mother’s bookshelf. It’s called Weird But True: 200 Astounding, Outrageous, and Totally Off the Wall Facts by Leslie Gilbert Elman. Bravo to Leslie for the gathering some gems like these:
From page 4, “When lightning strikes a place where the soil is sandy, its heat causes the silica in the sand to form craggy glass tubes that ‘fossilize’ the lightning. Fossilized lightning bolts are called ‘fulgurites.’”
From page 28, “Scientists working at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory recently created the highest temperature ever recorded in the universe: 7.2 trillion degrees Fahrenheit. That’s 250,000 times hotter than the core of the sun.”
From page 124, “Beelzebufo ampinga, the ‘devil frog,’ could be the largest frog that ever existed. It measured sixteen inches long and weighed about ten pounds; its mouth was enormous, and it was a predator. Fortunately, it became extinct about 65 million years ago.”
And from page 147, “Churchill owned a cat named Mr. Cat.”If I might be so bold, I’ll add a 201st fact to the compilation.
In 1955, the famous Guinness brewery published the first Guinness Book of Records. They got the idea for it in 1951, when the managing director of the brewery was on a hunting expedition in Europe. He shot and missed a game bird, causing his hunting party to wonder what the fastest game bird was. When they couldn’t find an answer, they decided to create their own book of records.
If you want to read more about that, here’s a writeup on it from How Stuff Works. For my part though, I want to tell you about a recent world record that was set, and it’s a good one.
In July of this year, millions of Ethiopians set a world record by planting the most trees in one day (and a tip of the cap to my friend Steve for sharing this news with me). The previous record was set by volunteers in India in 2017 who planted about 66 million trees. Ethiopia had been aiming for 200 million trees in a day.
They smashed that number. According to the country’s minister for innovation and technology, the final tally was 353,633,600 trees. It’s all part of an even broader effort to plant 4 billion trees in the country between May and October this year.I’m impressed by the people of Ethiopia, and I thank them for this effort. This was a country with 30% forest cover in 1900, but only 4% today. They will benefit tremendously from restoring their natural ecosystems, and we all benefit from the carbon dioxide that these trees will sequester.
I also hope that they don’t hang on to that record for very long (unless they want to break their own record again!). Given how much good planting trees can do to solve the climate crisis, a competition over who planted the most trees is a competition that everyone wins.